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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Canadian dollar dips on interest-rate news and blocking of oil patch business takeover

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 28/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s dollar has dropped to just above parity with the U.S. currency after the country’s central bank said plans to raise interest rates are now “less imminent.”
    Bank of Canada, Mark Carney made the comment while cautioning that lagging global demand and high household debts are concerns to the country’s economic outlook.
   The bank kept its trendsetting interest rate at 1 percent and expectations are it might not be increased for at least another year.
   "Because of global headwinds, there is a need to provide very stimulative monetary policy," Carney said.
   “The case for adjustment of interest rates has become less imminent . . . but over time, rates are more likely to go up than not,” he added.
   The dollar is at a two-month low, down about two cents, and was also shaken by the Canadian government’s decision to block an oil-field takeover bid as being not in the national interests.
   Petronas, Malaysia’s government-run energy company, was rebuffed in its $5.2-billion proposed deal to take over Progress Energy Resources Corp. a Calgary-based natural gas business.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Canadian border guard escapes death by shooter; no plans to speed up arming officers

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 21/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government has no plans to speed up the arming of border guards even though an agent narrowly escaped death when shot.
   Lori Bowcock was critically wounded when shot in the neck by a Seattle man trying to cross into Canada last Tuesday.
   The gunman, identified as tattoo artist Andrew Crews, 32, then shot and killed himself at the Peace Arch Border Crossing in Surrey, police said.
   The 2 p.m. shooting was at the busy crossing between British Columbia and Washington State, south of Vancouver.
   Bowcock, of London, Ontario, began working with the Canadian Border Services Agency at the crossing in July and was previously a 911 dispatcher with the Ontario Provincial Police.
   She remains hospitalized and doctors expect she will make a full recovery.
   Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he is “deeply concerned” by the shooting and that the arming of border agents is a key component of strengthening the agency.
   Officers are being trained to carry and use firearms and all 4,800 should be ready to do so by 2016, he said.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Dozen people ill after eating beef linked to now-closed Alberta processing plant

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 14/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   Twelve people in four provinces have been infected by E.coli bacteria linked to an Alberta beef processing plant at the center of a massive tainted meat recall.
    The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has ordered the emergency closing of the XL Foods plant in Brooks.
   That followed the discovery of the bacteria last month in tests by U.S. officials on meat being shipped across the border.
   U.S. authorities then stopped accepting beef shipments and a recall began that has now expanded to 1,800 products shipped within Canada, to the U.S. and 20 countries.
   The plant with 2,000 workers handles about 35 percent of Canada’s beef processing operations.
   It has been allowed to resume limited operations under supervision but no products will leave XL at this time.
   Harpreet Kochhar, agency executive director, said the plant has been cleaned and sanitized as an investigation continues into “improvements made to all previously addressed deficiencies.”
   XL chief executive officer Brian Nilsson is denying claims by the United Food and Commercial Workers that the fast pace of slaughter operations forces workers to take shortcuts with cleanliness.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Massive recall of tainted beef hits Alberta plant

   Canada column for Sunday, Oct. 7/12


   (c) By Jim Fox

   The political fallout is building as Canada faces its largest-ever recall of tainted beef.
   The list continues to grow of recalled beef products over possible E. coli contamination from the now-closed XL Foods plant in Brooks, Alberta.
   More than 1,500 XL products across Canada and the United States are on the recall list.
   The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said the list could still grow as officials track beef from the affected plant to distributors, manufacturers and retailers.
   An Edmonton man, who is among five confirmed cases of E-coli illness, has launched a class-action lawsuit.
   Opposition Members of Parliament have attacked the Conservative government for its handling of the crisis and delay in notifying the public.
   Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government denied suggestions that spending and job cuts at the inspection agency aggravated the problem.
   The outbreak of E. coli was first detected on Sept. 4 but reports said it wasn’t until 12 days later the agency began recalling some of the products.
   Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the plant that employs 2,000 people won’t be allowed to reopen until the agency is satisfied its products are again safe to eat.